Day 8

This is the story of a little square.

Once upon a time there lived a little square. I could tell you more about her; what colour she is, for example, but no. She is just an ordinary tiny square. Her parents constantly preached to her about the great things about being a square. It’s not that she is ashamed of being a square. Oh, no, of course not! Never that! It’s that she quietly fancied herself to be unique.

Like all parents who pass down their experience and wisdom on to their little ones, the little square’s parents taught her all there is to know in order to succeed in life as a little square: watch the lines, don’t go bending corners and keep straight.

The little square tried very hard to follow the things she’s been taught. But one day she got into her little head that maybe she’s different. Maybe she is no ordinary square.

First she tried to colour herself. She tried purple, she tried green and she tried orange. No matter what colour she painted herself in, everyone knew right away that she was the little square.

Drats.

She tried giving it up for a bit, but then she’d try again. And again. And again.

Then she remembered her parents’ rule about keep straight.

“Right, screw this, I’m going to go down all those winding paths and twisty corners. I’ll show them!”

So off she went. Her little squareness made it really difficult to go down all those winding paths and twisty corners.

This is going to be a problem.

She sulked. As she sulked a big long sulk, she looked around her and saw all shapes of different shapes (haha) and sizes rolling, bouncing and twirling around. That day she decided to pluck up the courage to speak to a doctor about turning herself into a triangle.

After many, many months of cutting and taping, she became a triangle. And for awhile she was truly happy. She went back to her square parents, who had a hard time accepting her at first, but are now happy to hear her stories of a square living as a triangle.

But one night as the darkness settled in, she realised that she was still unhappy. She saw all the little round-shaped holes teasing her. Circles were tormenting her in the day, and spheres in the night.

And after many, many months of cutting and taping, she became a circle. And even though, like last time, she found herself happy again. Like last time, the darkness settled once more in her heart. And she found herself speaking to the doctor again.

And so she became an oval. Then a rhombus. Then a diamond.

A few months after turning herself into a diamond, she found herself at the doctor’s office again.

“Doctor, doctor. This isn’t me. You know what I really need to be?”

“No, tell me.”

“No, I am asking you. I don’t know.”

This time the doctor cannot bear the pain of cutting his patient any smaller. He explained to her that there is just not enough material on her to make her into another shape. If he does, she will die.

That very night, the once little square, sat by the fire in her garden. She stared into the fire as she sat there, and she got more and more mesmerised by the dancing and shifting shapes. She tried to lean in to take a closer look. And then she walked closer and closer to the fire.

Just a little more.

Oh, that’s pretty…!

And then she fell in.

And as she did, the dancing fire transformed her into a million tiny fragments to be carried away in the loving arms of the wind into the night sky.

Photo courtesy of Archiproducts

Day 2

After writing yesterday, I felt my brain going almost manic. For the rest of the day, it fired a hundred ideas a minute for the next post: life as a stepmom, lists of books, life after trauma, life after academia, living in Paris as an ethnic Chinese who speaks French, English and Chinese, the intersectionality of racism and sexism here and elsewhere, pen recommendations, recipes and the list could go on for quite awhile, but I chose to stop listening.

Choosing was easy, but actually stopping was incredibly hard.

Instead, I made a promise to myself to write and to post just once a day. For a fixed period of time, I will sit down and write everything down for one post. I can go back to it, edit it, or change it up completely. But when the time is up, I will stop and call it a day.

The thing is that I am no stranger to this feeling of manic writing frenzy. I remember when I used to embrace the sudden burst of creativity and would let myself sit down and write paragraphs that turned into chapters overnight. I loved, and welcomed, these moments which (to nobody’s surprise) usually came in the beginning of a project. What would inevitably happen is that the “burst” would inevitably live up to its definition and fizzle. The outpouring of ideas that I had in the beginning would slowly taper off and I would feel incredibly guilty for no longer churning out several chapters a day and that would lead to a cycle of guilt, pressure and shame that would then transform into the infamous writer’s block.

This was more than five years ago.

I have come to realise that the best way to make this a steady and long-lasting habit, or ritual, even, is to go slow. Write a post a day, and then close it. Do not give in to write down all the ideas that tickle my brain just yet. Believe that if an idea is important enough, it will stay with me until the morning. Believe in the limitless possibilities that this writing medium offers.

As I got to thinking about nurturing habits, ny thoughts went to my teenaged stepdaughter, whom I love and of whom I am so immensely proud. She radiates light when I look at her. Whenever she talks to us about something that she is passionate, I see roads opening in front of her and I swear I would chop off an arm if it means she could get a chance to walk them. She is also brilliant at testing my patience and sanity. The prevailing issue with us concerns rules, how to set them, and how to enforce them.

She and I share the same size for most clothes. I enjoyed this from the start and loved loaning her pieces from my closet when she went out. It began to grow into a habit that I called her out on. The next time that she took clothes without permission, she also went into our bathroom and used my perfume and makeup without asking. I spoke to her again, writing her a very long letter explaining that I love sharing things with her but that asking me before using them is a bare minimum. It does not matter that each time I say “yes” to her. She cannot take that “yes” for granted and just assume that she can go ahead and do whatever she wants. Now that half a year has passed, she is doing it again. As they say, old habits die hard.

Included in these old habits of hers are the following:

  • Constantly asking for new clothes when she clearly has enough. I am aware that they are not the latest style, but that is not what she is saying as she obviously knows that if that is the reason she brings up, we would shoot it down right away.
  • Not taking care of her belongings and when called out either says that she needs to be taught it (instead of just going ahead and doing it) or that she does takes care of her things, just the things that she happens to care about.
  • Complaining that she looks to her parents for discipline. Problem being that firstly, I do not discipline teens, nor does my partner, and she knows that. There are rules that are understood in our household and they are to be followed. Secondly, the brand of discipline that she is looking for is that of her mother’s. I have no problem with that, it’s just that they are not mine nor do I share her values and therefore not mine to set. Thirdly, is the way she feels entitled to set the rules for us by passively aggressively letting things slide, ignoring rules that have been set and feigning ignorance when called out.

I am tired of going over the ground rules again and again with my kid, only to have them ignored all over again. I am exhausted to have to explain to her how her actions violate my privacy and trust, or to have to explain to her why her intentions do not matter when her actions indicate something grossly different. I am pained each time I do the mental dance of asking myself is she or is she not being manipulative. How do you deal with a person who maliciously ignores your requests, such as please return my belongings immediately after using them? At some point it is not about the person not knowing better and it becomes clearer that the person is blatantly ignoring what you have asked them. What to do then?

How can I teach my teen to be considerate? How do I nurture respect and selflessness in her? What does the world “belief” mean to someone of that age?

Checklist of the day, AKA my brain is registering all the sounds and nothing else:

  • My typing, or I am smashing ants on my keyboard
  • The dog barking next door
  • The light coming through the living room and kissing my basil
  • The low hum of the refrigerator
  • My kid’s half-eaten sandwich and thermos of coffee sitting on the kitchen counter (for which I woke up at 6 to prepare)
  • The bunny pushing around its dish

Day 1

I write today to stop escaping and to start documenting.

To document the reasons that made me escape in the first place. To document the numerous checklists that I made in my head to make me stay grounded (but let’s be honest. If they worked, I wouldn’t be here). To document the darkness. To document the light. In doing so, I can come back here when the whirling dervishes of my head try to drown me, when I feel like I have nothing more to give, that it is okay because like everything else, it will all pass. When I am at my most stable, I know there are others out there like me, with worry and doubt behind their eyes, hoping for a kindred spirit out there.

I write today to start something.

When life comes at an unstoppable speed, when I feel like a grain of rice being washed, with both hand and water pushing me towards something greater than you, I just want to hit the stop button. If not “stop”, then “pause”. It is times like these when I would escape: into a book, under my covers, in my thoughts. A shelter for my brain so I can breathe again. This sort of escapism saved me from the worst of myself, but also made me incredibly vulnerable. I want to stop running and start living.

I write today to fight back.

There are often multiple sides to one story and there are moments, especially in this time that we live in, where it seems as if that whoever screams the loudest wins. Where I would once keep my head down low and my mouth shout, now I wonder why I feel as if I should do that? Would I not be complicit in shutting my voice down? Don’t I also deserve to be heard?

I do, we do.

I have always had the habit of making checklists in my head. It was/is a crutch for me when dealing with anxiety and when I was recovering from my rapes. Maybe I will stop making them one day, but until that time I am going to document them here. In doing so maybe it will banalise the process, free up some much needed headspace and also it’s all part of the archive.

Checklist for the day:

  • Heightened hearing: Y/N
  • Strained breathing: Y/N
  • Lowered appetite: Y/N
  • Knot in stomach: Y/N
  • Heightened irritability: Y/N